City of Stars – An Experiential Book with 12 Real Life- Environment Stories + 48 Activity Pages

Available at www.litjoys.com/shop and Amazon India

In Nov 2017, after the Diwali break, I got a frantic call from another distraught parent…”Our children are suffering because of the unhealthy, polluted air. Can we request their school to put purifiers in the classrooms? Can’t we do anything about it?”

I felt devastated seeing our children, elderly and many other adults suffering from bad bouts of health for months together year on year. I also felt sad seeing our children deprived of the original joys of childhood – gazing at the sky full of stars and playing freely under the blue skies.

It struck me then that the future of our children – and their health – lies in our own hands. WE (the citizens) need to change our everyday habits first and become RESPONSIBLE instead of only expecting our government to take action.

If we want to see the bright stars and blue skies again, every month our habits must change, through the year follow and maintain, to our friends and family explain, remind them of the habits they need to sustain!

Thus, City of Stars – an experiential book in the form of a calendar- was conceived…

I wanted to be part of the solution to spread awareness, break all myths and change behaviours for a GREENER, CLEANER and HEALTHIER planet. I realised that AIR and other forms of ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION is not a seasonal issue and a worldwide problem.

I started writing stories linked to air and other forms of environmental pollution in the form of real-life conversations between a child and his parents. The central character of Abdu is inspired by my son, to whom I have been reading these stories, while writing and rewriting them over the past one year.

I have also created an only storybook version of this book for children and their families across age groups to spread mass awareness about this issue.

I hope this book will introduce all the little Abdus and their families across the world to the small and big lifestyle changes for a GREENER, CLEANER and HEALTHIER planet!

Apple Food Menu – A Health and Nutrition Kids Game

“Mumma, I don’t want to eat dal. I just don’t like it. But, dal is good for you. I don’t want it…” As soon as my son joined big kid school at 3.5 years he started having many such food battles with me. Obviously, he wanted to eat yummy candies and chips and many other such packaged and processed food items that other children at school were eating every other day. “Chips and candies are yummy, but not good for your tummy.” I would often come up with such phrases to convince him, but all in vain.

And to top it all, when he turned 4 there was a fuss about not wanting to eat on his own even though the boy was growing up. And when I heard other moms pulling their hair about their kids not wanting to eat vegetables or fruits or refusing to eat without being handed a tablet or turning on the TV, I became more determined to resolve the new challenge.

After doing further research, I realised being fat was often considered healthy, even if the child lacked energy to run and play sports. If a child was lean, and though energetic, the moms were often told how unhealthy their kid is. Many mothers also often had battles with their parents over whether to feed their children biscuits or sweets as even high amount of sugar was often considered healthy.

When I observed many toddlers same as my son’s age, always wanting to grab food menus from their parents in restaurants, I decided to give the food project the shape of a menu card. Seeing children’s excitement with smileys received at school in different colours, the food in the menu and other eating habits were classified in 3 categories – red smiley apple, yellow neutral apple and black sad apple. Why apple? Because an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

And voila the apple food game was born! To help many other moms avoid food battles with their toddlers, little children and other family members. To instill healthy eating habits (not only what they eat, but also how they eat) in them from a young age. To help them be active and have enough energy to play their favourite sports for the rest of their life!

Know more about the Apple Food Game and order your copy here

More Than Just Words – The New Guessing Game

IMG_20180731_145121Little Abdu’s favourite toy was the alphabet train puzzle. He loved putting the pieces together – like a train. He also found joy in matching the alphabets to images and learning words written on the pieces.

One night, when his Mumma was too drained to have a full-blown reading session, she found a new way to bond and make him learn language. She asked Abdu to look around for things in the room and identify words linked to the different alphabets. While he did not want to stop playing the guessing game, he was happiest to know that his Mumma’s favourite thing in the room started with the letter A.

The session delayed his bedtime, but his Mumma was still happy. She had discovered a fun way to keep him engaged without toys, in or outside of home…and to help him OBSERVE, THINK and CONNECT.

Little Collector’s Passport

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Order your copy of the Little Collector’s Passport here

This year has been special in ways more than one. I travelled extensively with my little boy– from quaint hills of Uttaranchal to cities of Japan. Wherever I went I always found my toddler’s pockets full of travel tokens, from coins and train tickets to beautiful flowers and leaves. Sadly for both him and me, many of these tokens never came back home. He lost his precious belongings and I lost my travel memories.

Traveling with my little boy was fun, but I often had to find creative ways to keep him engaged during flights or trains, while waiting for meals at restaurants or during rest periods in hotels. And to top it all there were fights between father and son at the airports over possession of son’s passport, now that son had clearly started recognising his name and face on it.

Thus, Little Collector’s Passport was born. For all little travellers who love collecting things. For parents, who love traveling (within and/or outside India), to make their travel more memorable and enjoyable by keeping their little ones engaged in collecting and recording things throughout their journey in a document they treasure.

Sticker book with flags of 48 countries across the world is included to make parents learn about flags of different countries along with their children. To keep alive the dying culture of stamp collection, sticker stamps of 48 countries are also included to learn about symbols of different countries and get motivated to explore unexplored territories.

Besides country flags and stamps, multiple interactions, from sticking to pasting, colouring, drawing and writing, have been built into the passport design it to make it more engaging and relevant for kids of different age groups. Finding a colour that would appeal to both genders was an equally tough task. To avoid the dichotomy of pink versus blue, finally settled on a purple colour for the cover. While the inside leaflets are light blue to retain the look of an original passport, in many places dabs of pink have been used to serve as a reminder that pink is not only for girls.

And it may just keep your kids off screens and be willing to try out new foods for the time they are busy collecting and recording things they loved!

Pink Christmas

Pink ChristmasRed is the colour of the season, but for my little boy and me the colour pink has brought joy this Christmas!

I loved playing with dolls when I was little, but grew up hating the colour pink. Like manPink souveniry other girls, every other piece of toy or clothing I was gifted when I was little was pink. My mom continued to gift me pink even after I turned 30. “Oh, you look so pretty in pink,” she would go when I would often complain “why do you always buy me pink?” But I could never see the prettiness in pink until my little boy developed a love for the colour.

It all started when he wanted to wear the pink hairband of his closest friend. He was more excited to ride the bright pink cycle gifted accidentally on his 3rd birthday than the red one we bought. And then we read the book The Day the Crayons Quit, in which the social notion that pink is for girls was happily broken.

From that day onwards it was pink all over for him. He wanted to colour everything pink, including the squares of a chess board and flag of Japan. He wanted to buy everything pink, from souvenir dolls to water bottles and tooth pastes. And when he refused to wear a sweater early morning, he happily wore a pink one. And just like that I started seeing prettiness in pink.

Pink DayI made my son and his boy friends colour their favourite objects in pink on a playdate. In the park, we started collecting beautiful pink flowers that had fallen from the Kachnar trees with heart shaped leaves. When I asked my little one to come up with a list of things that brought joy to him over this past year, clearly the colour pink won the most hearts.So, this Christmas, to celebrate our love for pink and to keep the joyful spirit of the season, we decided to decorate our tree by making his favourite objects, from airplanes to strawberries and zeros, in pink besides other colours. And brought home a pink poinsettia to put under our tree to bring more joy to our hearts.

Cheque Mate – The Indian Game of Strategy, Honour, and Pride

IMG_20170829_144833Cheque Mate” – two words I grew up hearing more often than not in my Indian household while keenly observing my father and brother play the game of strategy together. The honour and pride I would see on their faces while saying these words, would always make me feel this game was special. But probably like many other Indian girls growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was only a silent spectator of the game for years together. It was assumed, as it was for many other games or sports in India, that women do not like playing chess!

30 years later when I finally got a chance to say cheque mate while playing the game on a floor with pawns almost as high as my knees, I could not help but grin with delight. I always knew there was more to the game of strategy when I saw the design being replicated on streets and floors in different nooks of the world. Despite the controversy around its place of origin (India or China), I had no qualms about representing the game on the cover of my next Lit Tale – My Indian Games.

Most children can be taught to play chess when they are about 5 or 6 years old, but my 3 year old and I had a lot of fun pasting the white squares in alternate positions while creating the game. While running his little fingers up and down, over and over again, on the “alternate” white squares, he discovered that numbers do not necessarily follow the sequence of “1,2,3…”.

The design of the game can be used to explain many different number related concepts to kids in a fun way. My greatest joy though will come the day I am able to inspire young boys and girls to create and play this game of honour, strategy, and pride with their parents to preserve the culture of indoor games and enjoy some great bonding time together!

 

 

Big, Bigger, Biggest – A Tale of Spiders in Himalayan Holiday

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This long weekend, marking India’s 70th independence, we decided to take a nature break by traveling to the quaint town of Ramgarh, nested in the hills of Uttaranchal, to admire the beauty of very own country.  “When will go back to India? This is India, every vacation you take is not abroad.” I overheard a couple talking to their 5 year old son as soon as we reached our destination. I smiled, perhaps the child was as mesmerised by the beauty, purity, and quietness of our surroundings, where the great Indian poet, Rabindra Nath Tagore, often found inspiration for his poems.

As for my own son, I tried to show him a variety of birds & butterflies, flowers & fruits growing on trees during the nature walk we took while waiting for check-in. But it was a creepy crawly creature that caught my toddler’s fancy. “Mumma look,” he said pointing to the lamp post next to the bed when we walked into our cottage room. While he was fascinated by the creature with 8 long legs spread around in a circle, I almost screamed as I had never seen spider that big (the size of my hand) in my life.

From the next day onwards it was spiders everywhere, for my son and me. In the bathrooms, in the car doors, behind the food casseroles in the dining room. So one fine night, when he was fussing over dinner and I did not have access to our usual eating aids (books, everyday objects) as well as could not remember the famous nursery rhyme Incy Wincy Spider, I was left with no choice but to coin a tale of spiders.

Come I will tell you a tale of 3 spiders. Once there was a big spider, bigger spider, and biggest spider. Big spider was hiding in the knobs of food casseroles, bigger were hiding in the paper airplanes hanging from the roof of the dining hall, and biggest in the circle in the middle of the fan that you see revolving on this wall. And the story went on and on for next 20 mins, with the spiders played together, danced together, joining their big long hands.

At the end it not only turned out to be a story which my toddler wanted to hear over and and over again, but also the easiest way to explain him the concept of relative sizes – big, bigger, biggest.  While playing the traditional “Akkad Bakkad” game of counting fingers during the train ride back home, I was pleasantly surprised when he asked “Mumma, which is biggest?”

 

 

 

Time and TimePieces

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I have been fascinated with the concept of time and timepieces since I was a child. Partly because I grew up watching clocks and watches more than 50 times in a day thanks to my extremely time conscious father. But also because I loved gazing at the sun, stars, and moon and playing with shadows, all phenomena governed by time.
So when I stumbled upon the astronomical clock while walking on the streets in a recent trip to Prague, I was filled with awe and delight. Climbing up the tower to purchase a similar looking clock for home was more enjoyable than getting a bird’s eye view of the city.
The greatest joy though came when I realised that some of the most interesting facts linked to the animals are related to the concept of time while designing the next book on African Safari.
Here was my opportunity to redesign the clock finally! To help little ones understand that there are 24 hours in a day, though most clocks and watches they see around show 12 hours, the difference between day and night hours, and how different eating, drinking, and sleeping, patterns of animals are from us humans.

The City of Five Seasons – Unlearning the Learning

IMG_20170629_100039Loud thunder, dark skies, cool breeze, and rain drops lining up on rails. As I sit on my balcony chair, admiring the sight, sound, and feel of the first rain of the monsoon season, I experience the same inner happiness as I do every year reminiscing the various small joy moments – from making and sailing paper boats, jumping barefoot with closest friends, to sipping hot tea and relishing pakodas made by mother and having a drink and larger life conversations with my partner.

I grew up and spent more than 30 years of my life in Delhi, a city of five seasons, but would always think of seasons as primarily four (spring, summer, autumn, winter) as taught in my school text book. Thanks to the phrase “Four Seasons” coming to represent the urban fabric – from hotels to apartments, it became so deeply engrained in my sub conscious that I never really thought of questioning it even when I grew up. It was not until recently, when  I started designing the seasons mini-book for next Lit-Tales on nature theme and started representing seasons page by page in the context of changes in trees, that I consciously realised that there are actually five seasons in my city- spring, summer, monsoon, post-monsoon, and winter.

Learning they say is a life long process. While I continue to enjoy learning new things (from trees and flowers in my city to birds and animals of different countries) as I design for nurturing the joy of learning among little ones, greatest joy comes from unlearning the learning !

 

 

 

My Gulmohar Tree

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To help your child fall in love with nature, order your copy of My Gulmohar Tree here.

Orange is a colour that usually one associates with fall colours that we do not have the privilege of viewing in India. But for me and my little one it has become the colour that brings joy to our hot Indian Summer as we rediscover our love for nature while admiring the beautiful orange flowers of Gulmohar trees lining up the streets and parks of our city and get inspired to redesign the nature book on our favourite tree.

Growing up in Delhi surviving the peak summer month of June has always been hard. The soaring temperatures make it next to impossible to step out during the day and even the evenings are more often than not spent in the pools or indoors. To avoid feeling of being trapped and generally depression that sets in the mood, most people have started escaping the city for longer periods of time.

But one fine day when my son brought home the bright orange flower that had fallen from a Gulmohar tree in the park, I could not help appreciating the beauty of Indian Summer. Suddenly all childhood memories of admiring the tree, which stood only 3 feet distance from my bedroom window, every summer when it starts blooming with bright orange flowers came flashing back. Looking at my son’s curiosity for the same tree, I was inspired to redesign the nature book on my favourite tree.

Despite the relentless heat, every evening we went to the park to count and collect some fallen leaves and flowers of the tree. We pasted a picture of the tree on the cover page of the book and adorned it with its flowers & leaves, sticks, and stones – all collected from the park. While the son enjoyed pasting alternate dals (orange and brown), sprinkling and blowing the orange saw dust while writing the name of the tree was as a lot more fun.

As for me I suddenly realised why I grew up to fall in love with the colour orange as it adorned the walls of my house and reflected in many of my personal belongings from shoes to handbags. For the first time, I also took notice that the orange flower of the Gulmohar has a white streaked petal in the middle and star shaped centre, which made me appreciate its beauty a tad bit more.